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Haydn: Symphonies and Violin Concerto

The Haydn Year recently saw the passing of the great scholar of the composer and his works, H. C. Robbins Landon.

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Haydn, Symphonies 49/80, Violin Concerto 1, G. von der Goltz, Freiburger Barockorchester

(released on November 10, 2009)
Harmonia Mundi HMX 2962029
This disc of two early Haydn symphonies, no. 49 and no. 80, is another fine release in Harmonia Mundi’s Haydn Edition series for the anniversary year, quickly drawing to a close. The Freiburger Barockorchester gives crisp, even angular performances of the two symphonies, both sometimes cited as examples of the Sturm und Drang character (especially the storm-tossed no. 49, known as "La passione") found in many of Haydn’s early symphonies. Those relatively heavier works bookend a lighter diversion, a welcome performance of Haydn’s first violin concerto (C major, Hob. VIIa:1), which affords the chance to hear how Haydn, like Bach before him, absorbed the structure of the Vivaldi solo concerto. The ensemble’s leader, Gottfried von der Goltz, gives a glowing rendition of the solo part, conceived by Haydn for his orchestra’s concertmaster, violinist Luigi Tomasini.

This is only the latest in an unofficial series of Haydn symphonies (and other works) by the Freiburg ensemble, including another release this year, Symphonies 91 and 92, paired with the Scena di Berenice sung by Bernarda Fink. The best way, economically speaking, to add some Haydn symphonies to your collection at the moment is still with a larger set, like the re-release from Tafelmusik reviewed last week. Christopher Hogwood's historically informed recording with the Academy of Ancient Music, still very pricey in several little sets, has also been in my ears recently: they are elegant, subtly lined performances but not extraordinary enough to merit the current asking price. If you already own many of the early Haydn symphonies, these discs from the Freiburgers would be an excellent way to fill a gap in your collection, and anyone looking for a taste of those works would be assured an excellent introduction with these performances.

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